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Archive for the ‘Saudi business’ Category

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‘We have the best working environment around here’ … ‘we changed the whole competition landscape, we are the best now and our competitors have to live with it’ … ‘Our products/services are not comparable to others, we are the best’

Once such kind of mentality starts flying around your organization, then it is in need for a serious therapy; it is going through the ‘illusion of the best’ syndrome! And once you have it, it is the downhill road thereafter.

There is no doubt that the marketplace is a competition arena. However, deciding who is the best should be left to stakeholders and unbiased observers, certainly not to the organization managers only!

And let’s give it some thought; in a business environment, what is the best? the best compared to what? and in which categories? And should we compare our products/services/practices to our competitors only? in our environment only? or should we do that globally? I am sure you can come up with endless series of question like these …

My argument is that the whole concept of being the best should have no place in a business environment. The ‘best in ….’ is a relative term even if based upon ground measurements, because, at the end, those measurements are based on agreements between a number of people.

The illusion of being the best could be damaging on the long run. It generates demotivation and kills innovation; why should we do more, we are the best?!

It happened that I have being sitting once with one of the so-called-managers of one of the biggest companies in the country and he was talking about how they are conducting some of their business. The strange thing is that he was referring to many managerial flaws in his talking, and he was acknowledging those flaws! I asked him ‘it is great that you can put your fingers on the wrong doings that are causing pressure on your staff and your productivity. So why don’t you solve these issues?’ His reply was ‘this is how we do business around here!’ I said ‘but there are many companies around the world that faced similar problems and there are many lessons that you can get advantage of.’ He replied ‘No No No … do not talk about companies around the world. Tell me about local companies. We are the best company in the area and this is how we are running our business’!!!!

I hope you got what I mean now!!

 

p.s. I think the ‘illusion of best’ syndrome fits Jim Collins’s stage number one of declining organizations; the stage he calls ‘Hubris Born of Success.’ Read more about it in his book ‘How the mighty Fall, and Why Some Companies Never Give in’ published in 2009.

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One of the most bizarre techniques that is sometimes adopted by weak managers of culturally weak organizations is the use of threatening language in the communication channels across the organization levels!

The repeated use of expressions like (or else … those who are not with us are against us … I will remember that in the annual appraisal … if you do not want to stay on the ship) in meetings, emails, circulations, or even in the company written policy, cause nothing on the long run but the loss of trust, disappearance of loyalty, and performance tardiness.

What provoked this post is a memo by one of the international brands working in Saudi Arabia. It is hanged beside one of its warehouses in front of everyone to see. It is written in Arabic; but here is its translation:

Attention!!!!!!!!!!!! For all staff, please do not set anywhere outside the store unless it is a permitted area. If these instructions are not followed, the store management will have to take any necessary action.

Regardless of the main topic of the memo, which is the staff seating arrangements, the memo was going somehow OK till the threatening language begun. As someone who knows nothing about the internal processes or culture of this company, reading these few lines I can tell that it is based on fear and intimidation. I can picture how demotivated their staff are and how the internal communication channels are filled with tension.

I am not saying that companies policies should not contain rules against misbehavior and so forth, but I am saying use them wisely, trust your staff, and do not threaten them. If you cannot build your company, department, or team culture based on trust, rest assured that you are going … nowhere!

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[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=iPhone+4&iid=9199086″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9199086/customer-displays-iphone/customer-displays-iphone.jpg?size=500&imageId=9199086″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]I really hope some undercover Apple agents were present yesterday around the retail stores of the phone company that officially released the iPhone 4 in Saudi.

The scene of customers, all types of them: technical savvy, young, mature, students, and employees, all waiting in lines for hours to have the chance to get their hands on that magical device called iPhone 4 is an indication that Apple products are having a good opportunity to grow even bigger in the Saudi market (read more about it in this Saudi Mac post).

So the logical question in such situation would be: how come that a central country in the region with a huge fan base (and huge disposal income!) does not have a direct presence  in the form of Apple Stores or at least a certified representative! To get an answer to such question, a one should be able to penetrate the Apple management minds, which is not a very wise nor save thing to do?!

By choosing not to be in the Saudi scene, Apple has allowed its products and its prices to be manipulated in the market and its fans to be taken advantage of (a friend told today that he knows someone who bought an iPhone4 before it was released in Saudi for about SAR7000 = $1866.5). And let’s not start talking about warranties and technical support.

Will Apple ever listen to its Saudi fans? lets wait and see …

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One or two days to the Eid; hope you all have a happy holiday. And now be honest, how many times have you been out shopping for Eid?

There is something I am not quite getting about the retail markets in Saudi. Most of the countries around the world have organized sales seasons. You most probably heard about the US’s Black Friday and such. The concept behind such seasons is strictly simple; as holidays are getting nearer and people wants new stuff to own and to gift, prices are slashed to attract customers and drive sales. Simple, right!

Now when it comes to Saudi, it is a bit strange. Sales are coming on and off all the year long without prior notice. That’s till shopping season really starts which is mainly before Eid Al Fiter. Once started, prices hike almost exponentially!!! (if you want another point of view on the sales and shopping experience in Saudi, Jeddah in particular,  you may want to check out this audio blog from That Jeddah Podcast.)

Not only that, there is another tactics usually used by most retailers in the market. Just before Ramadan and during its first days, the flashy signs of ‘sales up to 50%, 60%, 70%, etc’ start to pop up everywhere. Now, if you ever shopped during this period, you will know that it is a mess. You cannot find all the things you want. It’s old merchandise, few pieces, and out of stock sizes! And just few days before Eid, all the new lines of merchandise are offered and prices more than doubled.

The strange thing is that customers are adapting and getting along with these tactics or how can you explain the crowded malls just two days before Eid!!??

So when most countries choose sales seasons based on holidays, retailers around here choose to charge more … and more!

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=airlines&iid=292693″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/292693/airplane-over-runway/airplane-over-runway.jpg?size=500&imageId=292693″ width=”234″ height=”350″ /]The Saudi low budget Sama Airlines is suspending its operations in the Kingdom starting today until further notice.

Should this be a surprise? I would say: No, it was expected!

The whole scene of civil aviation industry in Saudi does not look that good. Whether we are talking airports or airliners, It is a mess, to say the least!

Operating an airlines is a tough business, no doubt about it. Lots of head to head competition and very turbulent business environment. And when you are working in a messy market like the one both Sama and Nas had stepped in, the situation becomes even harder.

I am not sure what kind of business plans they had both studied to reach the decision that the Saudi market is an attractive investment opportunity. Maybe by only looking at the status of Saudia and how almost all Saudis agree that it suck! the idea of having a second airlines should’ve looked appealing. The fact of the matter is that Saudia is a company both owned and supported by the government. And what makes it even worse for commercial activities in such market is when the regulator (GACA in this situation) does not provide any guarantees to protect the fairness of competition. Maybe the new comers received some promises, but businesses are not usually built on promises, they are built on facts, at least when it comes to the market environment.

Now both of the companies are waiting for the promises to be fulfilled especially for fueling prices. It could be a tactic played by Sama to get the attention of higher authorities although it is a hugely damaging move to the company name (especially that Nas did not play along, if it was a tactic!!)

It is another sad story added to the book of sad stories of Saudi airlines business!!

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=grocery+shopping&iid=5210525″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/5210525/products-shelves/products-shelves.jpg?size=500&imageId=5210525″ width=”234″ height=”311″ /]Few days to Ramadan and the consumerism carnival has already started. Consumers, retailers, and the Ministry of Commerce and its monitoring bodies are the usual triangle sides of the price hiking struggle and debate; who did what to whom!!

One of the strangest analyses that popped out this year came from ‘an official’ at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) according to Arab News (here) The manager of the Corporate Social Responsibility at the JCCI is saying that the consumers themselves are the problem of any prices hikes because, those bad consumers, have brand loyalty!!!! He is also adding that there is no need for any prices monitoring systems, and assures us all that the Saudi market is one of the most open markets in the world, even more open than the West!!

I am not sure how Mr. Official understands the concepts of brand loyalty, consumer protection, and open markets but here are some comments:

  • When consumers trust a brand and develop some kind of attachment to it, then it should be their own choice to continue with it or not if the brand owner decided to increase the price for any reasons (e.g. manufacturing costs, new features, raw materials cost, etc). But when the prices increase not because of the brand owner but because of other factors in the local supply or distribution chains, then whose responsibility is this? And even more, what if the brand owner is a local who takes advantages of different seasons to increase prices without any reasonable justifications, whose responsibility is this?
  • There are no contradictions whatsoever between free markets and consumer protection activities. Not only that, I can take it a step further and argue that, consumer protection groups are major signs of a truly free market!
  • Prices monitoring is one of many responsibilities of consumer protection groups. Quality checks, fighting monopolies, be the channel of communication between the customers and other governmental bodies are all examples of such activities. Again, how all these activities contradicts free and open markets??

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Just before the summer vacation sneaked in, I wrote ‘Tourism is a Business’ talking about how I, and mostly anybody I know, have never been persuaded by any local tourism activities.

Now, as most of the Saudi cities are living the so called ‘Summer Festivals,’ one of SCTA’s members went out on Arab News and talked about how these festivals are poorly organized, and how much they lack creativity and fresh ideas!

Most of the points he touched on like prices, transportation, diverse activities, and even electricity and water cutoffs, almost reach the level of agreement between those interested in the idea of local tourism, and we as customers are certainly interested.

The point is that if one of the organization’s members knows and can so eloquently list all these problems and shortcomings, I believe it is legitimate for us all to ask, where are the solutions??

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